Blackberry, iPhone or Android, student life is closely tied with smartphones.
As Apple’s latest iPhone, the 4S, hits shelves Friday, students are beginning to weigh the hefty price tag of these phones against their usefulness both inside and outside of the classroom.
“It’s absolutely critical for this generation to have the kind of constant, instant and therefore mobile access to the Internet,” said Morley Winograd, a senior fellow at Annenberg at the Center for Communication Leadership and Policy. “[A smartphone] really enhances the social experience.”
Winograd said having an iPhone or similar smartphone is an important part of student life.
“A smartphone is [just] a very mobile computer,” Winograd said. “I don’t think anyone would question the need for a computer on campus, and they shouldn’t question the use of a smartphone.”
A smartphone can be social and educational; as smartphones become more prevalent, the two uses often become simultaneous.
“[Smartphones] just open up so many possibilities; you can do so much networking like Facebook,” said Shelby Bartholomew, a junior majoring in creative writing. “I can email my professors [and] I don’t even have to be in front of a computer, so it definitely opens up a lot more communication.”
Smartphones, however, are expensive for college students. The 16-gigabyte iPhone 4S costs $199, and Blackberry and Android phones start at $179. Winograd, however, said any student can benefit from the services a smartphone offers.
“The apps now available are tailored to students,” Winograd said. “And it increases productivity as a student but also as an individual.”
For some who don’t already have smartphones, the release of the iPhone comes at a welcome time.
“I’m actually about to change my phone,” said Hong Pang, a graduate student studying philosophy. “[With a smartphone] I can get access to my email, and it’s especially important when applying for jobs so you can get updated information.”
As a teacher’s assistant, Pang sees students using smartphones regularly, but has not found them to be a problem in class.
“Most [students] are engaged during class and during the discussion section,” she said.
Many students who don’t have smartphones said they feel the devices are not absolutely necessary.
“It’s not necessarily important, but it’s just not as convenient — not just for Facebook, but just to be more connected to people,” said Christina Sheu, a freshman majoring in biology who does not own a smartphone. “But it keeps me from being addicted to Facebook.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that the iPhone 4s hit shelves Oct. 11.